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Charity grant boost to WWI project

Sandham Memorial Chapel will host war artist exhibition

Stanley Spencer

THE Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere is to reap the benefits of a £99,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant towards a charity’s First World War centenary project.

Owned by the National Trust, the chapel is home to 19 world-famous wall paintings by Cookham war artist Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959).

Sir Stanley lived for a time at Chapel View Cottage, Burghclere. 

Away from the Western Front, a registered charity, recently received the £99,500 towards a First World War project, focussing on the experiences of those who served in the campaigns of Salonika, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Africa.

During the First World War, aged 24, Sir Stanley was sent to Macedonia as a medical orderly with the 68th Field Ambulance unit, before volunteering for transfer to infantry regiment, the 7th Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment.

He spent two-and-a-half years on the front line, before being invalided out of the army with malaria.

In 1918, the war claimed the life of his elder brother, Sydney, and the experiences greatly influenced his paintings. 

The charity is using the grant to research the lives of those who served in the First World War campaigns, working with youth groups, schools and community groups countrywide – including the Sandham Memorial Chapel – and from all sides of the conflicts, including Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish people now living in the UK.

Drama, art and music will bring their stories to life and a film – which will be shown at the autumn/winter opening at the chapel – will include letters, photos and works of art supplied by the memorial chapel and Stanley Spencer Gallery, in Cookham, near Maidenhead. 

Operations manager at the Burghclere chapel, Alison Paton, said: “To now see a project where the key aspects of the Salonika campaign will be depicted through community responses and film will bring another experience to all those involved and all those others who experience it here at Sandham Memorial Chapel, digitally or in any other medium.” 

Local organisations and individuals involved will then work with an arts practitioner to develop their own ideas on the Salonika campaign, and the results will be presented alongside the film in a side gallery at the chapel.

The project is also being supported by grants from the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial).

The information will be used to create a new website and digital archive for public access.

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